Tobacco giants face new lawsuits
Two central Asian nations are suing the United States tobacco industry for the cost of looking after their sick smokers.
Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan say America's tobacco giants should also compensate them for economic growth lost to smoking related illnesses.
The former Soviet republics filed their lawsuits in Miami-Dade County Court where jurors last year awarded $145bn to sick smokers from Florida.
A lawyer said the two countries believed they had been intentionally targeted by the tobacco giants because many of their people were poorly educated and unaware of the dangers of nicotine addiction.
The defendants include Philip Morris Inc and RJ Reynolds Tobacco Co.
No specific damages are requested in the Tajikistan and the Kyrgyz lawsuits.
But their lawyers said the two countries spent hundreds of millions of dollars treating smoking related illnesses such as cardiovascular disease, lung cancer, emphysema and birth defects.
They also said both governments would have regulated tobacco more closely if the US companies had been honest about the risks of smoking.
"We believe the 'tobacco cartel' intentionally targeted these developing nations where most of the citizens are poor, undereducated and unaware of the dangers of nicotine addiction," attorney Sonny Holtzman added.
"The 'tobacco cartel' held crucial health-related information back simply to get more people hooked."
The tobacco industry is already making payments on a $246bn settlement reached with US states in 1998 to help cover the costs of treating smoking related illnesses.
Venezuela, Russia, Bolivia and Brazilian states have filed similar suits.